“Far below NBA standard in regard to explosiveness and athleticism… at 6-2, he’s extremely small for the NBA shooting guard position… Needs to add some muscles to his upper body, but appears as though he’ll always be skinny.”
That was just a taste of Steph Curry’s underwhelming 2009 NBA draft report. A pair of point guards (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn) were ultimately selected ahead of Curry, who went on to become a four-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP, and the greatest shooter in basketball history. (He was also chosen one spot ahead of his desired destination, the New York Knicks, which still haunts this die-hard Knicks fan.)
Making its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, the new documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated charts the once-scrawny North Carolina native’s rise to legendary status. Directed by Peter Nicks (The Waiting Room) and produced by another Bay Area icon, Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), the doc juxtaposes Curry’s mythical run at Davidson College, where the underrecruited, undersized baller brought the 2,000-person liberal arts school all the way to the Elite 8, and his 2021-2022 NBA title run with the Warriors.
When Curry first expressed a desire to play college basketball during his sophomore year of high school, he was about 5’9” and 140 pounds soaking wet. Since he shot the ball from his hip, his father, former NBA player Dell Curry, told him he had no choice but to alter his entire shot if he ever wanted to achieve that goal. As the story goes, Curry was rejected by Virginia Tech, the alma mater of both is parents, who told him “he’s too little” and “he’s not big enough to play major D-I basketball,” as well as all the other big basketball schools. So, he went to Davidson.
During his first game at Davidson, a preseason bout against Eastern Michigan, Curry turned the ball over 13 times. He looked completely lost on the court.
“I was just overwhelmed about everything,” Curry says in the film, looking back on that moment.
The team’s coach, Bob McKillop, thought he perhaps wasn’t ready for college-level ball, and contemplated removing him from the starting lineup. The very next game, Curry dropped 32 against Michigan. It was, Curry recalls, a seminal moment in his career.
While Stephen Curry: Underrated makes for a compelling ESPN-style sports documentary chronicling his journey from college to the NBA, with some Warriors footage thrown in, it would have been far more intriguing if it incorporated more of a look at him behind the scenes. Curry has always remained a bit of a cipher — a soft-spoken assassin, of sorts — and this doc doesn’t do a whole lot to change that. A brief snippet of Curry rapping, or at least a close approximation to it, on Davidson’s variety program “The Davidson Show,” hints at what could have been, though those unguarded moments are few and far between.
For those already familiar with the broad strokes of Curry’s story, the most eye-opening moment in the film occurs early on. We’re dropped into a party in New York City. It’s 12:32 a.m. Hours before, Curry broke the NBA’s 3-point record at Madison Square Garden. Curry appears a bit tipsy, balancing a glass in one hand as he exchanges pleasantries with McKillop — or “silver fox,” as Curry calls him — and a host of others.
Then, Kevin Durant approaches.
“Get the fuck outta here, bro,” exclaims a surprised Curry, before turning to the camera and shouting, “I’m sorry for my language, mama!”
The two embrace before Curry says, “Remember that time you thought I was a little white kid?” causing Durant to throw his head back with laughter. “I think about that shit all the time, dude!”
Once the laughter dies down, Durant points at him and says, “Now you that guy. Embrace that shit.”
After he departs, Curry turns to a friend and offers, “I love that dude, man. The most misunderstood dude in the freakin’ league right there.”
It’s a rare peek at the Curry we never get to see: tipsy, unfiltered. More moments like this would have gone a long way, though given that Stephen Curry: Underrated is produced by Curry’s own production company, Unanimous Media, perhaps that was his editorial choice.
As for the whole Durant thinking Curry was white bit, KD shared that story once back in 2014, at an NBA 2K Uncensored event.
“I was about ten years old, and our AAU team drove down to Charlotte to play,” Durant explained. “I thought he was white. He was this yellow kid, right? I’m just being real now, right? Where I come from, in the hood, we don’t see that. We don’t see the light-skinned guys around.”
Durant continued, “I walk in the gym and this guy’s stepping across half court just pulling jump shots. Splash. Splash. And when we played him, he had like 25 and he was like ten years old. I was like, who is this? And ten years later… that was Steph Curry.”
Curry and Durant, of course, later went on to win back-to-back NBA championships (2017, 2018) as teammates on the Golden State Warriors.
Stephen Curry: Underrated will be out later this year on Apple TV+